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For a brief period, I considered living in the dorms at my college, and had I gone through with that plan, an electric burner or hot plate would have been at the top of my college packing list. That way, I’d be able to make a pasta dinner whenever I wanted, and without ever leaving my room.
Electric burners are nifty devices that allow you to take your cooking virtually anywhere with an electrical outlet. This makes them perfect for spaces with limited kitchen equipment. Those who travel frequently or create recipes for a living may also benefit from a portable cooktop.
“A hot plate is the perfect space-saving solution for dorm rooms, small kitchens, tiny studios, or any environment with minimal counter space,” says Mila Furman, a private chef in Chicago. “People who enjoy creating food videos can get especially creative since a portable cooktop is generally lightweight, travel-friendly, and versatile.”
Like full-size stovetops, electric burners come in a variety of sizes and materials. You can choose from single or double burners with induction cooking or electric coils. There are also different types of safety features and a range of power levels available. With these, the higher the wattage is, the quicker your burner will heat up.
Here are the best hot plates for any space.
Best Overall, Electric : CUSIMAX C120N Electric Burner Single Burner
What We Love: Compatible with all cookware, robust stainless steel construction, automatic shutoff for safety
What We Don’t Love: Might heat up slowly
The main appeals to an electric burner include versatility, portability, and affordability, and this stainless-steel unit by CUSIMAX satisfies all three. It has a decent-sized burner diameter coming in at 7.4 inches, making it suitable for medium-sized pots and pans. Made with ceramic glass, the plate is easy to clean and compatible with all cookware. Simply wipe down the surface with a damp cloth when not in use.
This model is equipped with an automatic shutoff function which is regulated by the thermostat and prevents overheating. Other safety features include the nonslip feet and power indicator light. The unit is powered by 1,200 watts, though some user reviews report difficulty with heating quickly. Lastly, its compact footprint and 4-pound weight allow for easy travel, meaning this burner stows away nicely on the RV or when camping for those black beans and eggs breakfast quesadillas.
Surface: Ceramic glass | Dimensions (LxWxH): 13 x 11 x 3.5 inches | Burner Diameter: 7.4 inches | Wattage: 1200 W
Best Overall, Induction: Duxtop E210C2 Portable Induction Cooktop Countertop Burner
What We Love: Doesn’t get hot to the touch, more precise heat distribution, heats quickly
What We Don’t Love: Small burner diameter, pricey
If you already own induction-ready cookware, this induction cooktop will make a nice addition to your kitchen. It’s compatible with cookware made of stainless steel, cast iron, and other surfaces with magnetic properties.
Induction works by generating electricity to directly heat pots, which helps keep your cooking area cooler. Since the surface area doesn’t get hot when it’s not in contact with compatible cookware, they tend to be safer. Compared to electric and gas stovetops, induction plates heat up much quicker and have faster cook times. They also tend to be more precise in the distribution of heat as well, something that electric burner users may struggle with.
Having a cooler surface means that hot plates that use induction are among the easiest to clean. Food doesn’t burn onto it, even when it's a sweet and sticky butterscotch sauce, so wiping it takes only seconds.
Surface: Glass | Dimensions (LxWxH): 16.3 x 12.7 x 3.8 inches | Burner Diameter: 8.5 inches | Wattage: 1800 W
Best Budget: Elite Gourmet ESB-301BF Countertop Electric Hot Burner
What We Love: Reasonably priced, heavy-duty plate, small footprint
What We Don’t Love: Probably not up to big jobs, heats up slowly
Affordable portable burners might not look the fanciest or have the most power, but they get the job done. Furman recommends this hot plate because it’s easy to clean, versatile, and built with safety features.
“With safety in mind, it features nonstick rubber feet to prevent sliding and a cool-touch base to prevent injury,” she says. “It's a versatile option since it's compatible with all types of cookware, including cast iron, nonstick aluminum, copper, and stainless steel. What drew my eye to this hot plate is the easy-to-clean heating plate. Cleaning up after dinner is usually the worst part, so I appreciate any kitchen tools that cut down on cleaning time."
This basic option comes with a 6.4-inch cast iron burner that does have 7 power levels to choose from. Most hot plates are space-saving options, and this model is especially compact. Its small footprint takes up minimal space on countertops and tucks away neatly when not in use. It is important to note that this does not have an auto-shutoff feature so you will need to be mindful during cooking.
Surface: Cast iron | Dimensions (LxWxH): 10.7 x 9.2 x 3.7 inches | Burner Diameter: 6.4 inches | Wattage: 1000 W
Related: The Best Nonstick Pans
Best Double Burner: Cuisinart CB-60 Cast Iron Double Burner
What We Love: Adjustable temperature controls, high wattage, non-slip feet for stability
What We Don’t Love: Some users have difficulty using both burners at the same time
For larger households or large-batch cooking, more burners may be necessary to accommodate higher volumes of food. When I cook, I almost always use two burners—one for the main dish and another for the side dish. Or maybe you want to keep both your apple cider and your mulled wine warm.
This two-burner model by Cuisinart is great for these more complex meals. The smaller burner measures 6 inches and uses up to 500 watts of power, and the larger plate measures 7.5 inches and has up to 1,300 watts. Together, the burners use up to 1,800 watts. Both have five power levels and separate indicator lights, so you know when to place your pot on the element. Double burner plates are designed to be used simultaneously, but some users report difficulty doing so.
Surface: Cast iron | Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.5 x 19.5 x 2.5 inches | Burner Diameter: 6 inches, 7.5 inches | Wattage: 500 W, 1300 W
Related: The Best Saucepans
Best Infrared Plate: Ovente Electric Glass Infrared Countertop Cooking Burner
What We Love: Infrared technology heats up quickly and evenly, compatible with all cookware
What We Don’t Love: Temperature dial has given some users trouble
If you’re looking for the precision of an induction cooktop with the price and versatility of a standard electric model, consider the Ovente single burner. It uses infrared technology that heats up quickly and cooks food evenly, plus it's compatible with all cookware.
At 2.6 pounds, this is one of the lightest portable burners on this list, while still having a respectable 7.5-inch element and six heat settings. While the burner is quick to heat, some users report difficulty changing the temperature once it’s been set. If you make recipes that require lowering the temperature, such as bringing food to a boil and then simmering, the unit may take some time to cool down.
Surface: Crystallite glass | Dimensions (LxWxH): 11.1 x 9.8 x 3.2 inches | Burner Diameter: 7.5 inches | Wattage: 1000 W
Induction cooktops like the one made by Duxtop (view at Amazon) tend to heat more evenly and with more precision, though they require certain cookware. Electric models, like the one by Elite Gourmet (view at Amazon), are the most versatile and they’re more affordable, but they can take longer to heat up.
What to Look for in an Electric Burner
The higher the wattage, the more powerful the burner. Most hot plates range from 1,000 to 1,800 watts. The average electric stove wattage is around 3,000 watts, making them pretty powerful. While it’s unlikely that your single burner will be able to handle the jobs of your full-size stovetop, they can be small but mighty. Commercial-grade units tend to have at least 1,500 watts, with some heavy-duty options going up to 1,800 watts. If you’re just looking to make simple dishes with a single burner, a model with 1,000 watts will perform just fine.
The burner size affects the size of the cookware you can use on your hot plate. The diameter size typically ranges from 5 to 8 inches. A larger cooktop allows for larger cookware, which then allows you to cook larger portions at a time. However, this likely means a larger unit that can take up more space and become more difficult to travel with. The burner size that suits your needs depends on the size of your space and the size of the cookware you plan on using.
“When buying a hot plate, safety precautions and convenience are among the top criteria to consider,” says Furman. “An electric burner allows you to cook without requiring access to a full kitchen, and it's portable for cooking on the go. While a portable electric burner can be a bit of a novelty gadget, a hot plate should always be handled with caution and care.”
Many cooktops are made with safety features, such as cool-touch surfaces, non-stick rubber feet, and automatic shutoff. While accidents may happen, investing in an electric burner with built-in safety features may help to prevent them.
How do you clean an electric burner?
Electric burners are usually easy to clean, though this depends on the material used to make the hot plate. Typically, you can wipe down the surface of the plate using a damp cloth. Be sure to remove any pieces of baked-on food with a scraper tool. Since these parts are connected to electrical connections, never submerge the unit in water. Be careful to avoid getting the electric parts wet.
What types of cookware can you use on a hot plate?
Induction hot plates require induction-compatible cookware, such as pots and pans made with stainless steel and cast iron. Your cookware must have magnetic properties so it can conduct electricity. Standard electric burners are more versatile as they are compatible with all types of cookware.
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Lacey Muinos is a food and product writer for Simply Recipes. She covers health and wellness topics with a specialty for food. As a self-proclaimed foodie, she has an impressive collection of kitchen tools.
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